In the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film, Captain Jack Sparrow is dogged by deadly ghost pirates, led by the maniacal Captain Salazar. In real-life, though, he’s apparently being pursued by a different kind of foe: hackers that claim to be holding the big-budget film, in true pirate fashion, for ransom.
On Monday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said hackers had threatened to release an upcoming Disney film barring a large ransom payment in the form of Bitcoin. Iger said Disney would not pay that ransom.
By Monday night, Deadline was reporting that the supposedly stolen film was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth film in the Pirates franchise, and a major summer movie due out Memorial Day weekend. Disney has not confirmed that “Pirates” was the stolen film.
The report came just days after ransomware hackers disabled computers around the world, and demanded ransoms.
But the “Pirates” hack bore more similarities — though also some stark differences — to the 2014 hack of the Sony slapstick North Korea comedy film “The Interview.” The Interview was initially canceled due to the hack, but later saw a limited in-theater and online release. Last month, hackers also stole season five of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” which soon appeared on the torrenting website The Pirate Bay.
Benjamin Caudill of the cybersecurity firm Rhino Security Labs said the public and corporations will increasingly have to grapple with such hacks.
“Whether it’s the next blockbuster movie, or a list of the most fertile places to grow soybeans, it’s that corporate information the industry or public will find valuable” that is going to keep getting targeted by cybercriminals, he said.
Whether hackers can make money from intellectual property thefts, though, is uncertain. Neither Disney nor Netflix were willing to pay the ransom hackers requested.
But if the goal is simply to hurt studios and movie viewers, that effort may be more successful. “The Interview” hack cost Sony $15 million in “investigation and remediation costs” (the film cost $44 million to produce), and prohibited the film’s wide release, not to mention leading to a diplomatic dispute with North Korea.
As for Disney, Caudill says the hack, if it occurred, would likely require the studio to hire an outside forensics team to assess exactly what happened, and could hurt them at the box office.That would likely mean hackers releasing the film early online and viewers watching it at home instead of in-theater.
While the release of “Orange is the New Black” as a torrent seemed to have no tangible impact on the shows’ viewership, Netflix was a subscription people already had, Caudill said, while going to the movies costs money.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” has been projected to make $100 million during its opening on Memorial Day weekend alone. The “Pirates” series includes some of the highest-grossing films of all time. Disney declined to comment on the alleged hack beyond what Iger announced.